Veruca Salt and L.T.Milroy
In this week’s Blacklist, we deal quite extensively with the moral code of Red. Those who thought he doesn’t have morals, or that he doesn’t value anything, were mistaken. He may not have friends, but he does have scruples. Why would you think he doesn’t? Just because he’s also a ruthless killer? He’s a renaissance man. He’s like an onion, he’s got many layers.
This week’s blacklister is The Mombasa Cartel. Lambada? No, Mombasa, not the international dance of naughtiness.
LT: The episode begins twenty-nine years ago in Sierra Leone. A jeep pulls up in front of a hut and gunmen wipe out an entire family. The only survivor is a little boy, who is taken by the killers. He’s presumably not on his way to summer camp.
V: One of the guerillas puts the kid under his arm like he’s a package. Definitely not summer camp.
In present-day Paris, a man in a posh hotel gets his last order of room service. The waiter attacks and kills him, then puts some kind of tag on his ear.
When I saw this tool coming toward the guy’s ear, I had much darker thoughts in mind.
Later, a skinned body, presumably hotel guy, washes up on a shore in Russia.
V: Okay, that close-up was gross. I prefer the faraway shot.
LT: Me, too. That was gratuitously gross.
Red lets Liz in on the case he wants the FBI to work this week, which involves taking on the Mombasa Cartel. They’re animal traffickers. The “worst of the lot” says Red. Then he goes on about the despicable people who exploit animals. The wild critters are definitely Red’s weakness, but it’s still weird to see him be kind of altruistic about anything.
V: To me, Red has a distinct moral code. If you’re a nice person who does nice things, and especially if you are helpless, Red will defend you with his life. He even said last week how much he admired that guy with all of the environmental stuff he did, until he became crazypants. Red just doesn’t like bad people who do bad things, and people who double-cross him, as the trail of dead bodies will attest to.
LT: He’s kind of like Dexter that way.
V: Also, you’ll recall his disdain for his ex-wife’s husband’s mistress, but he treated the dog well. Even while he put the stick to the jerk husband’s neck.
LT: And he never threatened the dog, not even after it wouldn’t fetch. But people who are mean to the little critters definitely piss him off like little else.
V: Liz points out the FBI is in the business of saving people, and that just seems to piss off Red even more, as he starts waxing poetic about political assassinations and massacres of villages and wildlife compounds, all for huge amounts of moolah.
When Lizzie asks if this means a lot to him, Red looks kinda choked up and talks about how all of the lovely creatures we see on Animal Planet will soon be extinct, because basically nobody gives a crap.
LT: We’re back to Ressler’s pill problem again. His prescription has run out, but he tries to sweet talk the pharmacist into refilling it anyway. She ain’t budging.
V: Oh, good! My favorite thing is story lines dropped for entire episodes. There hasn’t been one moment where Ressler hasn’t been on the ball. Well, at least they’re following through. And I’m sure he’ll be right back with that police report about the stolen pills.
LT: His search for drugs has made him late for work, as Liz fills everyone in about poachers who’ve been disappearing around the world. It seems Mombasa has been cornering the illegal wildlife trade. The skinned corpse was the mastermind behind an elephant massacre in Zimbabwe.
V: He put cyanide in the watering holes? Well, now I’m kinda glad they skinned him.
LT: High-ranking officials from other cartels have also recently gone missing,
But they’re small fish in a big pond. Liz is interrupted by her phone. She says it’s Red calling her away, and of course, she goes, because he’s the boss of her. Samar takes over the briefing and says Mombasa is the most ruthless cartel but is also very successful. They smuggle a billion dollars a year in contraband and folk cures.
V: Well, people have to have something to cure their erectile dysfunction. Hilarious that when Samar talks about it, she looks at Aram, who has an expression like, “NOT ME!”
LT: Liz opens what looks to be her secret door. Gun drawn, she punches a code into a pad by another door. Inside, the big guy we saw guarding the door last week is on the floor.
Another door opens and the sniper Red sent to follow Liz appears and says, “Do you want to tell Reddington, or should I?”
It looks like he’s going to tattle to Red about what Liz is keeping secret from him.
V: I guess Hot Sniper Dude isn’t as bad at his job as I thought. So it seems the only incompetent one around here is Lizzie, and that includes Ressler and his drug problem. Also, I guess that wasn’t Red texting her, but the passed-out dude, which means Lizzie is lying to her employers again. Some more. I’m sure there will be terrible repercussions for this. Except not at all.
LT: A big creepy bald guy is in a cabin with a bunch of stuffed animals. And not the cute kind. He’s a taxidermist working on his latest project. An old woman walks in the room and compliments his current work, which we then see, and it’s human.
V: It’s the hotel dude! That’s where his skin went!
He seems happy she praised his work.
LT: As they stroll through the park, Red tells Liz he’s arranged for her to have dinner with Geoff Perl. He’s not only the thirty-third richest man in the world but is also a wildlife lover, like Red. For their meeting, Liz will be disguised as an activist and reporter named Judy. Then Red does one of his infamous cool things. When passing by some people playing chess, he glances at a board and whispers the next move to Liz.
And of course, he’s right. So totally cool. The Fonz had nothing on this guy.
V: Can Red start a jukebox just by pounding on it? Jump over a bunch of garbage cans with his motorcycle? I don’t think so!
LT: I bet Red can do all that, and more. If this show stays on long enough I’m sure we’ll find out, in due time…
V: I also love how when Lizzie tries to call Red and Perl buddies, he disabuses her of that notion right quick. Red doesn’t have buddies. Or so he claims. But what about Pee Wee?
LT: That was great! I love how he scoffs at the mere concept of buddies.
Perl is played by Peter Fonda.
V: OH! Perfect casting! He’s a real animal rights activist. He auctioned off his Easy Rider motorcycle to benefit the American Humane Association. Also, love Peter. She seems totally freaked out about meeting Perl.
Wow, far from a nice, fancy restaurant, it looks like they’re meeting in a little place where there’s a screamy, yelly very hard rock band playing, and look who’s on drums!
LT: At dinner, Perl tells Liz how brutal Mombasa is, but she says she can take care of herself. She keeps saying that just about every week, and I’m not sure it means what she thinks it means.
‘Cause we’ve seen her get bailed out time and again after not taking great care of herself.
V: How many times in the past weeks has she been grabbed and/or hit on the head by the bad guy? She’s HORRIBLE at taking care of herself. That’s why Red hired her a personal sniper. Girlfriend needs one. Oh, and catch him hitting hard on Liz!
Hey, he’s Peter freaking Fonda. What the heck. Red says she’s a dead ringer for two of his last three wives. The first one looked more like Red, apparently. Do it, Lizzie. You can quit the job you’re so bad at. Leave your little warehouse behind, and of course, stop Hot Sniper Dude from following you. A win all the way around.
LT: And the world will be a safer place. Perl gives her somewhere to start in tracking Mombasa, Lee Chung, an importer.
Liz and Ressler visit Chung and identify themselves as FBI. They ask for his help, and when he’s not immediately cooperative, Ressler threatens him a bit before they take him away.
V: Ressler was definitely channeling his inner Dirty Harry there. A little ‘make my day’ action.
LT: Liz tells Ressler he seems edgy, and he calls her mom. Ressler looks pretty unkempt and is being overly sensitive and sarcastic. Gee, doesn’t seem suspicious to me.
V: Well, if Liz follows her usual pattern, she gets suspicious, but when the other person says they didn’t do anything, she just drops it. So, all of those clues will mean nothing. She found a stash of money and multiple IDs for Tom, and she still didn’t think anything was wrong until she was slapped upside the head with it.
LT: Chung’s business deals in the importation of game meats and animal parts from endangered species. He at first denies knowing anything about Mombasa, even after they tell him about the 112 charges against him. The agents learn that another body, a guy named Gomez associated with the cartel, has been caught in a fishing net near Japan.
Then Samar walks in and says Chung “broke.” I bet you got him to break, honey. I’m sure he never knew what hit him. Liz says it looks like somebody is poaching the poachers.
V: We saw her sitting calmly across from him moments before she came in, but if she knows Red, I’m sure she knows how to get someone to talk without laying a finger on them.
LT: I’m sure she’s very persuasive. She’d probably have me spilling state secrets in ten seconds.
Liz calls sniper dude and thanks him for the reprieve. He asks if she told Red yet. She says she didn’t, and he tells her it would have been better coming from her than him. It looks like Liz has been backed into a corner, but no sniper puts Lizzie in a corner! He tells her he doesn’t have a choice, and she says “Neither do I” just as we see a SWAT team busts down his motel door and arrests him. Liz arranged for sniper boy’s arrest to keep him from snitching to Red. She’s playing rough these days.
V: Aaaand we’re back to Hot Sniper Dude being really bad at his job. Twenty-four hour reprieve? Seriously? Who is he more scared of? And does Liz really think that once Red finds out, he won’t be sprung in, like, two seconds? Red’s connections have connections. Also, also, last week sniper dude’s whole job was looking out the window, but this week, he sits on his bed all casual-like, with no visual surveillance. How would he know when she leaves? And if he’s only one one watching her, what happens when he sleeps? I know. I need to stop thinking this stuff through.
Peter, one of the creepy cabin people, and the guy who tagged and bagged the poacher in the hotel room, complains to the older woman we saw earlier, about how he’s doing all the work, what with him being in charge of abductions. She smacks him across the face and tells him they’re family, and they all do their part. He should be proud of taking down the poachers his father identifies, and they get what they deserve. She’s scary-looking.
Then things get even creepier, when she puts her hand on his face, and he kisses all over it.
LT: We’re back at the American Bistro food truck we saw last week.
Red’s watching the woman he had been trying to find, who we assume is his daughter, although he hasn’t spelled it out. He’s at a table and gets up to go, but purposely leaves his hat behind. She, of course, chases after him with it, and they chat a bit. He offers her money for rescuing his hat, but she refuses. They seem to strike up a bit of a friendship, and he introduces himself as Kenneth.
V: What’s the frequency? And does it seem like all that woman does is take out the trash? But she seems really nice.
LT: Take out the trash and get chatty with international men of intrigue who may or may not be her father.
Aram, who’s one pretty smart dude, has been running ocean currents to track the poacher bodies that have been washing up.
V: If it weren’t for Red and Aram, the FBI would close down. They’re the only people with brains.
LT: He finds a link to Sitka, Alaska, which reminds Samar of a radical environmentalist organization, the Animal Underground Network, that was based there. In 1971, seven members, who were known as the Sitka 7, which included their leader, Timothy Carlisle, were convicted of the killing of some poachers of grizzlies. The AUG was thought to have disbanded after that. Cooper says to find out what happened to the ex-members and also to put a tail on Chung, who was released. He also sends Ressler to Sitka.
Red and Liz watch a news report on TV about how the law is at last closing in on Ray Reddington. A close associate of his has been arrested. Of course, it’s sniper boy.
Red is ticked and still wondering what Liz could be hiding.
V: When Red gets ticked, heads roll. Literally. He says she’s plugged the hole, but the dam will break. Of that I have no doubt. Sometimes I think Liz is the one on drugs.
LT: Back at the cabin of creepiness, the old woman is giving the big bald guy a bath while playing his favorite record. Yes, record. Another appearance of vinyl. Somebody who works on this show seriously loves turntables.
V: Yep. I noticed that right away. But I’m glad he rejects her when she wants to play Wheels on the Bus, because we’re already deep into Creepytown, and we don’t need to add to it.
I mean, she washes him, he gets out, she puts a towel around him, then she wipes his chest and hugs him.
LT: The old lady tells him Peter will be bringing home another ‘friend’ for him.
Ressler pounds the bottom of the bottle of pills. Does that ever work? Has anyone ever actually produced a pill out of an obviously empty bottle by petulantly pounding on it? I guess it’s just blatant TV exposition for this bottle is empty, and its owner is distraught. But, yeah, I had figured it out, he’s dry and pissed. Then we get to see how really desperate he is when he runs a finger around inside the bottle and applies whatever residue he was able to gather, onto his gums.
Yikes. Addict behavior and upsetting to see. But it gets worse. When he’s still not placated, he gets out of the car and slams his hand in the door. That’ll get him those painkillers.
V: I’m glad they’re showing true addict behavior, because that’s totally something they’d do. And while I like the realism, I’m hoping they do wrap this up semi-quickly. I’m guessing it’ll be by having Ressler really bottom out, to the point he has to see the shrink he’s been avoiding. The one we haven’t seen for weeks. She also sucks at her job.
LT: Ressler sits in his car, obviously relieved after filling the prescription and getting a dose. His phone rings, and Liz tells him Chung has disappeared. Once again, it looks like the FBI did a fabulous job of tailing someone. He’s told to go to the site of a former commune of AUG members in Anchorage.
Liz and Samar wonder how the victims, who were transported by air, got on flights. Liz says to check private jets.
V: She’s BRILLIANT! Who but the best FBI agent in the world could have come up with that? None, I tell you! And that was only after Samar suggested they didn’t fly commercial.
LT: Ressler arrives at the cabin of creepiness and knocks, but no one answers. The old lady walks up and tells him he’s on private property. He badges her and asks about the AUG. She says they’re long gone. It’s just her and her son Peter, who pulls up in a jeep.
Peter is just as unhelpful, so Ressler gives him his card and starts to leave then asks what’s covered up in the back of the jeep. When Peter says it’s goats, Ressler points out the AUG kept goats. Then he lifts up the cover and sees Chung in a cage.
Peter knocks him out.
V: The real FBI must want to shut this show down. The sheer amount of stupidity displayed weekly must be disheartening for them. They sent Ressler alone? What, they couldn’t spare Samar? Is it just Ressler, Samar, Liz, and Aram running the entire FBI? Cooper, you are also awesome at your job.
LT: The indispensible Aram has tracked down a private jet with links to a Wendigo LLC, which Liz calls and asks Red about. She also tells him they’ve lost touch with Ressler. He tells Liz to be careful in Alaska and tells Dembe there’s been a change of plans.
Ressler wakes up in a cage in the woods next to Chung.
They both have ear tags like the guy we saw earlier.
Then we see Peter with the big, bald mutant guy. Peter’s telling him to only shoot the ones with tags. As opposed to all the people wandering around their property without ear tags? That would seem to be zero, since we’re in East Jiboo, Alaska, and it’s not like there’s nosy neighbors hanging around, but whatever. The simple-minded guy needs reminding, apparently, before he goes hunting humans.
V: Maybe he wants to make sure mutant guy doesn’t kill actual animals? Since they are essentially animal rights people.
LT: That would have been funny, the inbred dirtbag family upset at the prospect of accidentally killing helpless critters. Too bad the writers didn’t think to put that in.
V: Peter opens their cages, and Chung starts to take off, but Ressler asks him where he’s going, so they stop for a chat. Ressler’s hands are shaking. Chung notices and tells him they took his pills, whereupon Ressler begins retching. Chung calls him a junkie, and Ressler ain’t too thrilled with that description.
But Ressler needn’t worry about him spreading the word, as Chung is immediately struck by an arrow.
The creepy old lady is on the phone telling a business associate about how the FBI showed up. Turns out she’s talking to Perl, who is working with the AUG. I guess he’s decided to deal with the poachers his own way. When you have all of the money in the world, you need a hobby.
LT: He says not to do the whole stuffing ritual, as finding a taxidermied Ressler may be incriminating. The woman says Matty won’t like it. She says Matty’s a child, then clarifies it and says, “Your child.” Ugh, this is getting way too Deliverance for me. Perl tells her to have Peter call him back when it’s done then hangs up and walks into the next room, where guess who is waiting to save the day? Mighty Mouse? No, it’s Red, who says “Namaste, Geoff.”
I have a feeling this meeting will be anything but peaceful for Mr. Perl.
V: This is because Red and Aram are the only ones who know what’s going on. Heh, and I just realized that lady was the first wife Red said looked like him…
The gang arrives to save Ressler, but first they have a conversation with one of the S.W.A.T.-type guys who gives them the long, sad family history and how the community has seen “someone or something else,” aka Matty.
Meanwhile, Ressler runs for his life.
LT: He comes across a campfire with some men around it in the woods. But they’re not going to give him any assistance, because they’re taxidermy victims of the lovely Matty.
And I’m going to blame it on the drugs that it takes him an inordinate amount of time to realize it. Ressler’s detoxing besides being hunted, and he’s got that intentionally broken hand to deal with, too. He’s having an exceptionally rough day.
Red is speaking with Perl in that way he has, kind of like how a cat will bat around a mouse a little while and play with it before killing it.
V: Yeah, when Perl tries to say it isn’t people he’s killing, but poachers, Red actually says Perl would be getting a big donation if that was his end game. This is so part of Red’s moral code, and I love it. But that’s not his end game.
LT: He knows Perl was involved with AUG and has a company called Wendigo, which owns Emerson Concord Enterprises, which Perl identified to Liz as a front for Mombasa. Apparently he was willing to kill off even his own people.
Red can’t fathom why Perl, who used to be an animal lover, is now a killer of animals. Perl goes off on a tangent to try to excuse himself, about how he’s a businessman and he’s just trying to control the market to get the best result for himself and the little creatures.
Seems he fancies himself as a good guy, because he’s taking on the poachers. He’s also making a nice profit and sacrificing some lives, both animal and human, in the process, but he’s not emphasizing that. Red says it’s about consolidation, not conservation.
He tells Perl to hand over a list of Mombasa operatives, or he’ll shoot him on the spot.
V: Red is the reason I watch this show.
LT: Cute little Matty is sitting at the campfire, talking to the taxidermied corpses.
We see one is shaking a bit. It’s Ressler, who’s still in withdrawal. MutantMatt notices, and Ressler attacks him. They roll around, and Ressler stabs him. Matty manages to get up and runs back to the cabin as the FBI arrives.
The creepy old lady sees Matty is stabbed and screams.
V: Damn, that was creepy.
LT: She hears the cars outside, and knows it’s over. It was fun while it lasted. The living in the middle of nowhere, the kidnapping people to hunt them down and kill them, stuffing them. Ah, the good life. But all good things must end. She tells Matt to get in the bathtub.
Just as Liz busts into the bathroom, creepy lady tips the turntable into the tub. Death by stylus. Bet you kids never thought you’d see that.
V: Liz is still the best agent at the F.B.I. Did you hear how she yelled “NO!” really loud, right before the record player got dumped?
LT: Perl hands Red a flash drive containing the information on the cartel. Then Red tells him the story of the Sierra Leone family that was slaughtered at the start of the episode. It was members of a cartel that did the massacre, because the dad had given up several low-level Mombasa members.
They sold the little boy to a ring of flesh peddlers. Most don’t survive long in that life, but this boy was fourteen when Red found him, chained to a pipe and left to die. He started to take care of him. Red got him an education, and he was an excellent student. Graduated from University and learned four languages.
He’s speaking of Dembe, who steps out of the shadows. Nice, some backstory on Dembe! Of course it would be a colorful one, I’d expect nothing less of Red’s right-hand man.
V: Okay, that is cool. I would never have suspected that was Dembe. Good job, show!
LT: Dembe asks Red not to kill Perl, because “it serves no purpose now”. Red says it’s just like Dembe to ask for mercy.
He’s a good man to be so forgiving. Then Red tells Perl, those kinds of traits are “what separates men like him from men like you…(pause, raises gun)…and men like me.” Then he puts a bullet in Perl’s chest.
V: Even knowing Red, I still was shocked. And it was so great how he was literally choked up when he talked about Dembe not more than thirty seconds before he kills Perl. Red Reddington is an amazing character. Again, he’s following his own moral code. He weeds out the good from the bad and metes out reward and punishment.
Back at the FBI, Cooper just stands there and gets the Mombasa list from Aram. Does Cooper actually do anything? Just wondering.
LT: Liz looks around the cabin and sees Ressler’s badge and pills.
V: She dumps the pills into her hand and looks at them like, These strange little objects look familiar, but I can’t quite place them.
LT: She returns his pills while she gives him an accusatory look, then she sits down next to him, but they don’t say anything.
Red has returned to the American Bistro truck and is chatting up Zoe. They appear to be having a lovely conversation.
We’re still not sure who she is, but she seems very nice, and they’re getting along well. Knowing this show, their relationship will be all ugly and messed up before we know it.
Finally, Liz is behind that door talking with her prisoner, and it’s…Tom. Gee, what a surprise. NOT. It’s totally what everyone expected.
V: Wow. I’m so glad they strung that out.
LT: She tells him she hasn’t made a decision on what to do with him yet. She thought about telling Red, because he’d know what to do, but she says this is her responsibility. Liz busting out on her own. This should end really well.
A bearded and chained-up Tom says he’s answered all her questions. He has? Can we hear these answers? Because I can think of, like, a couple of dozen things I’d like to hear him explain.
V: The question and answer session took place OFF-SCREEN? Are you kidding me? I hope she filmed it or something for playback later. Because, what the heck?
LT: Then he says, “You can’t hide me forever.”
Um, is that true, technically? Why can’t she? Is there anybody looking for him at this point? Theoretically, couldn’t she just keep him locked up forever if she wanted to? I thought everyone assumed he was dead. I think she can hide you forever, if she’s determined to, bunky.
V: Yeah, that’s the problem with being off the grid, Tommy. Someone can chain you up in their basement or a warehouse for the rest of your natural life, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.
LT: In closing, a little disappointed in the waste of Peter Fonda. Anybody could’ve really played that role. Mr. Fonda is a seasoned scenery-chewer, and I was looking forward to seeing him go toe-to-toe with Spader, but that wish went largely unfulfilled. Pity.
V: Peter Fonda was so low-key, he was almost comatose. Count me in as disappointed, as well.
So, that’s it. Were you expecting some scenery-chewing Fonda? Were you disappointed? What about Liz’s big secret? Were you shocked? Probably not, since it was guessed by pretty much everyone. Let’s see what happens with Ressler’s drug problem next week, when despite all of the evidence, he’s is able to convince Liz he doesn’t have a drug problem. And if Tom will be chained up in the warehouse for the rest of the season.